Another Super Trivia Night Annual Super Quiz Bowl brings out UCLA Luskin’s best — and most competitive — for an evening of brain-teasing questions, some good-natured teasing and plenty of hearty laughter

UCLA Luskin’s annual trivia competition was held for a sixth year on May 31, 2018, inside a tent on the 3rd Floor Terrace of the Public Affairs Building.

Organized by Luskin Director of Events Tammy Borrero with assistance from students and numerous staff members, the structure of the event led to a tightly competitive night, with more than 100 people in attendance and various teams of students, faculty, alumni and staff from all over UCLA Luskin still in contention until final tallies were made.

In the end, Public Policy snagged first and second place thanks to Quiz Bowl ChAMPPions (helmed by UP SAO Sean Campbell) and Bees Get Degrees (with alum and Luskin Center staff member Kelly Trumbull).  City Bootyful, with Juan Matute of the Lewis Center and ITS leading the charge, got Urban Planning on the map in third place. Team No Faculty, headed by alumna Alycia Cheng, finished just short of third and a near-sweep for Public Policy.

The winning team’s name will be engraved on the new Super Quiz Bowl trophy, joining previous winners such as teams led by faculty members Brian Taylor and Sergio Serna, both of whom were back this year but ultimately fell short of capturing the magic a second time.

Grad Night funding was again based on participation, and 50 percent of the proceeds will be divided among all three UCLA Luskin departments because each department fielded at least one team. Urban Planning won the other categories related to attendance and total team participation.

In addition to the numerous student participants (some returning for a second try and some testing their Luskin knowledge for the first time), the event brought in several faculty participants. In addition to Taylor and Serna, the faculty on hand were Kian Goh, David Cohen, Michael Manville, Ayako Miyashita Ochoa and Joan Ling. Participating alumni included Taylor, Manville, Ling, Trumbull, Matute, Cheng and James Howe.

Staff members who competed were the winning team’s Campbell, plus Social Welfare’s Tanya Youssephzadeh and Public Policy’s Oliver Ike. Executive Director of External Relations Nicole Payton provided several questions. Many other staff members and students helped out as needed and hovered in the background to join the fun and cheer on their friends and colleagues.

As the pictures posted to the UCLA Luskin Flickr feed show, it was a fun-filled night of friendly competition that brought the entire UCLA Luskin community together to wrap up the academic year.

Quiz Bowl 2018

Alumni Notes Recent gatherings and other updates from the alumni of UCLA Luskin

LAX > DCA > JFK > SFO

There is nothing we like more than visiting with our alumni in the cities where they live. UCLA Luskin alumni regional receptions have continued to grow in attendance as we strengthen our network. About 150 alumni kicked off the new year at the Broadway Bar in downtown Los Angeles. We spent spring break in Washington, D.C., thanks to alumni co-hosts Alex Rixey MA UP ’11 and Eric Shaw ’98, and later visited New York City, where Trent Lethco MA UP ’98 hosted Dean Gary Segura, alumni and friends at Arup U.S. Headquarters for an evening of mingling and camaraderie.

Bay Area Alumni: Mark your calendars for Tuesday, Aug. 14, when we will be visiting the California Historical Society for this year’s Bay Area UCLA Luskin Alumni Regional Reception. For more details: luskin.ucla.edu

In Los Angeles, are Allison Yoh MA UP ’02 PhD ’08, and Davis Park MA UP ’02.

 

In D.C. are Melvin Tabilas MPP ’03, Jessica Ramakis MPP ’03, Eric Shaw ’98, Nikki Lewis MPP/ MSW ’18.

 

In NYC, are Jenny Lai, Aiha Nguyen MA UP ’06, Liz Bieber MURP ’15, Sara Terrana MSW ’13 and current doctoral student.

GREEN WITH LEADERSHIP

Three UCLA Luskin alumni were honored by UCLA’s national award-winning Leaders in Sustainability (LiS) Graduate Certificate Program. Planning Manager at AECOM David DeRosa MA UP ’10, Chief Sustainability Officer at UCLA Nurit Katz MPP/MBA ’08, and Sustainability Program Director at L.A. County Chief Sustainability Office Kristen Torres Pawling MURP ’12 participated in a “Sustainability Professionals” panel geared toward current LiS students. They discussed what it’s like to be on the frontlines of advancing policy and planning to address environmental challenges. Representing disciplines across business, education and government, they were recognized for contributions made to each of their respective fields, as well as serving as stellar examples of how to foster innovative ideas and solutions in the field of sustainability. The event was co-sponsored by GSA Sustainable Resource Center and UCLA Luskin Career Services.

David DeRosa MA UP ’10, Nurit Katz MPP/MBA ’08, Kristen Torres Pawling MURP ’12, and Director of the UCLA Leaders in Sustainability Graduate Certificate Program Colleen Callahan MA UP ’10

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

Karina L. Walters MSW ’90 PhD ’95 was cited by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education as one of its most influential Native American Leaders in Higher Education. And for anyone who knows or has worked with Walters, it is no surprise. Prior to her career in academia, Walters was a community-based psychotherapist as well as the commissioner for the L.A. County American Indian Commission.

Today, Walters remains interested in culturally centered and community-based approaches, while also serving as associate dean for research, and professor and Katherine Hall Chambers Scholar at the University of Washington School of Social Work. She is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and co-directs the university-wide, interdisciplinary Indigenous Wellness Research Institute (IWRI), which was co-founded and co-directed with Tessa Evans-Campbell MSW ’94 PhD ’00. IWRI is one of 16 National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities Comprehensive Centers of Excellence and one of two in the country devoted to American Indian and Alaska Native research.

With more than 20 years of experience in social epidemiological research on the historical, social, and cultural determinants of health among American Indian and Alaska Native populations, Walters was selected as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and has served as Principal Investigator or co-PI on more than 37 NIH grants. She has mentored more than 90 scholars from historically underrepresented populations.

“Dr. Walters is a model change agent and a distinguished UCLA social welfare alumna, leading the way through her rigorous scholarship and unwavering commitment to indigenous populations,” said Professor and Chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare Laura Abrams.

ALUMNI ACCOLADES

Laurie Cannady MPP ’01 was appointed to the California Volunteers Commission by Gov. Jerry Brown. Cannady is the California State Director at the Corporation for National and Community Service, where she has held several positions since 2003.

Anthony DiMartino MSW ’13 was promoted to Legislative Director for California State Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of the 79th California Assembly District. While shaping Assemblywoman Weber’s policy agenda, DiMartino also mentors social welfare students during their annual legislative conference at the Capitol office in Sacramento.

Juan Enriquez MA UP ’01 was nominated for and honored with the 2017 Planner of the Year Award by the Central Texas Section of the American Planning Association (APA) for outstanding professional work. Enriquez is currently a planner for the city of Round Rock in Texas.

Rudy Espinoza MA UP ’06 was selected as an inaugural Fulcrum Fellow through the Center for Community Investment at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. The 15-month program is designed to position rising executives in the fields of community development, urban planning and community investment, and to help disinvested communities achieve their environmental, social and economic priorities.

Karissa Yee Findley MPP ’11 former Bohnett Fellow, was named director of school portfolio planning at San Francisco Unified School District. Yee Findley oversees an interdepartmental framework to bring SFUSD’s Vision 2025 to fruition, a plan that will redesign academic programs and the built environment so that each SFUSD student can thrive. She is also responsible for developing new schools in response to increasing student enrollment.

Anna Kim UP PhD ’11, a member of the planning faculty at San Diego State University, was selected as the Scholar Prize recipient for the 2018 William and June Dale Prize for Excellence in Urban and Regional Planning, based on her research that examines the emerging practices of “welcoming” cities and immigrant integration in the American South.

Louise McCarthy MPP ’04 was named chair of the L.A. Care Board of Governors, the nation’s largest publicly operated health plan serving more than 2 million members. McCarthy currently serves as president and CEO of the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County (CCALAC).

Darcey Merritt MSW ’03 PhD ’06, associate professor at New York University Silver School of Social Work, was appointed by academic publisher Elsevier to a two-year term as associate editor of Children and Youth Services Review (CYSR) effective January 2018. Merritt oversees submissions in the area of public child welfare.

David Vernon Silva MSW ’00 was the recipient of this year’s Council of Nephrology Social Workers (CNSW) Merit Award at the National Kidney Foundation’s annual conference. The award recognizes Silva’s research on the need for bilingual/bicultural MSWs in dialysis and transplant settings, as well as his contributions to the subspecialty of nephrology social work.

 

 

 

Diversity Is Excellence at UCLA Luskin The Diversity, Disparities and Difference (D3) Initiative connects students and groups across UCLA

By Stan Paul

Estefanía Zavala, Michelle Lin and Jordan Hallman are all up early on a Sunday morning. They meet at a favorite coffee shop in Hollywood. This is when the trio of busy UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs students can break from their fast-paced two-year professional programs to discuss a topic central to their lives, studies and future careers.

Diversity.

It’s important at UCLA Luskin, especially to the numerous student groups working to make their programs, the School and the campus more inclusive. At the time, Zavala, Lin and Hallman were student program managers for the UCLA Luskin initiative known as D3 – Diversity, Disparities and Difference. Launched in 2014 by former Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., D3 aims to “create a cohesive strategy to bridge differences, understand our diverse society and confront disparities in the field of public affairs.”

“I was really interested from the get-go, and the mission of D3 really aligns with Social Welfare’s mission, our core values of social justice and equity. And that’s always been a topic of interest to me and trying to improve the way things are and make sure that the campus is inclusive for all people,” Lin said.

The D3 Initiative is one of many UCLA Luskin student groups focused on issues of equity and social justice. Among the others are Urban Planning Women of Color Collective, Planners of Color for Social Equity, Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity, Luskin Pride, Black Caucus, Asian Pacific Islander Student Caucus (API), Latinx Student Caucus and Diversity Caucus.

Working independently or in collaboration with D3, the groups host Schoolwide and campus events designed to promote collaboration, bridge gaps and encourage understanding. These include an Equity in Public Affairs research conference and group dialogues with incoming UCLA Luskin students.

“My favorite experience thus far has been the Equity in Public Affairs training that we do in the beginning of the year, where students share their unique identities and receive training on operating professionally in a diverse environment,” said Zavala, who recently earned her MPP degree after also serving as a leader of Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity. “I got to meet so many people and really got to understand them.”

The D3 Initiative has three priorities:

  • Enhance student admissions and faculty searches by championing more diverse applicant pools;
  • Institutionalize programming that offers a critical understanding of social inequity while establishing connections with the greater community;
  • Strengthen student collaboration for a more inclusive school climate.

That mission is supported by the office of Dean Gary Segura as part of efforts to build an equitable environment on campus that has hired new faculty whose research and areas of interest include a social justice focus.

The D3 group has coordinated gatherings known as “Difficult Dinner Dialogues,” which invite classmates and others with diverse backgrounds and different life experiences to share and learn from one another.

“I think it’s a space, call it a brave space. It’s a brave space for everyone to come and not feel judged for what they think because it’s about being open to learning, so that will hopefully change the political climate,” said Lin, who has since earned her social welfare degree.

One Dinner Dialogue focused on sexual assault and “the role of men and women of color who don’t have the means to quit their job or speak out against their employer, the power dynamics of that,” Lin said.

“People really felt like this was the beginning of the conversation and they wanted even more,” she added.

In addition to their Sunday meetings, the student leaders stayed connected throughout the year with D3 faculty director Gerry Laviña MSW ’88, Social Welfare’s director of field education, along with the dean’s office staff. During the 2017-18 academic year, D3 added office hours to collect feedback, questions and concerns directly, and in confidence, from students at UCLA Luskin.

Hallman, who has since earned her urban planning degree, said her professional focus is “the intersection of transportation and land use and the responsibilities that come with approaching that point of intersection justly and equitably, which is a relatively new conversation within planning. I think participating in D3 has also led me to a role where I try to shed light on other points of intersection that aren’t talked about.”

For Zavala, connecting with peers from UCLA Luskin’s other two departments was important.

“The D3 position has empowered me to create a community across all three departments. I hope that in any future career that I have, I work actively to form bridges across silos and uplift the work of diversity. I also want to center my professional career on empowering traditionally marginalized communities. Starting at Luskin has been a wonderful experience,” Zavala said.

The D3 Initiative also supports students with awards, grants and funding for their work, including the Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. Social Justice Awards, which were created to recognize student scholarship in social justice and inequality. The award was made possible by contributions from the School’s board of advisers, UCLA faculty, staff and alumni.

“We are not yet where we need to be and there is still much to do, but D3 has been a guiding force for progress,” said Isaac Bryan MPP ’18. With the help of a Gilliam Award, Bryan’s Applied Policy research group studied the dynamic needs of the city’s formerly incarcerated reentry population for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“D3 empowers us all to continue placing diversity, equity and inclusiveness at the forefront of the work we do here in Luskin,” said Bryan, who is also a member of Policy Professionals for Diversity & Equity.

As a PhD student in urban planning, Aujean Lee also received funding through the D3 Initiative, including the Gilliam Award.

“These resources are important because urban planners, and planning research, still need to engage with and grapple with its historical legacies of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, etc., that continue to shape our cities and communities,” Lee said.

A version of this story also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.

Filling a Gap in Housing Justice Institute on Inequality and Democracy receives $486,784, four-year NSF grant to study housing precarity

By Cristina Barrera

The Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D) at UCLA Luskin has been awarded a four-year, $486,784 National Science Foundation grant.

The award (NSF BCS #1758774) will support the establishment of a research coordination network — Housing Justice in Unequal Cities — housed at the II&D at UCLA Luskin to address the housing crisis in a variety of cities in the United States and will include partnerships with key research entities in Brazil, India, South Africa and Spain.

The network will advance research on housing precarity such as evictions, homelessness and displacement, with plans to study these issues in tandem with forms of racial segregation and discrimination.

“As the recent headlines indicate, the United States is in the midst of an evictions epidemic. And yet, there is very little systematic data and data visualization on evictions and related forms of housing precarity,” said Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy and professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography. “There is also much work to be done on conceptualizing the main instruments of displacement and evictions that are currently underway in black and brown communities.”

According to Roy, the network will fill a gap in research by systematically analyzing community and policy responses that seek to create housing access and housing justice through legal frameworks, cooperative models of land and housing, and collective action (e.g. rent control, community land trusts). An important aspect of the project is its coordination at the intersection of social movements, universities and policy. Paying close attention to housing movements and policy interventions, the network will synthesize the primary modalities of housing justice and its conceptual underpinnings into a housing justice handbook that will be broadly disseminated.

“A global and comparative approach is important because there are important lessons to be learned from housing research in other parts of the world, including sophisticated conceptualizations and measurements of displaceability,” Roy said. “Similarly, there is much to be learned from housing movements in different parts of the world and how they have been institutionalized in progressive forms of urban planning and policy change.”

Shackling the Leviathan Balancing the citizenry’s wants with the state’s needs is critical for a successful society, says 2018 Perloff lecturer Daron Acemoglu

By Zev Hurwitz

Governments with too much or too little power can be problematic. Just ask Daron Acemoglu, the 2018 Perloff lecturer at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

In his remarks on May 8, 2018, at the Luskin School, Acemoglu reviewed some of his most recent work about institutions and societal outcomes. The event shared a title with his upcoming book, “The Narrow Corridor to Liberty: The Red Queen and the Struggle of State Against Society,” which he is co-authoring with James A. Robinson.

When it comes to issues of authority, Acemoglu said, striking the right balance is key. Too much or too little state power can lead to catastrophic violence and warfare.

“A lot of social and political theory is built around avoiding these sorts of scare scenarios,” he said.

At one extreme, a society where the government loses its means to govern can lead to chaos. Acemoglu shared a picture of the decimated city of Mosul, Iraq, following an ISIS takeover in 2014.

“This is an iconic case of what happens when a government’s law enforcement function collapses and anarchy prevails,” Acemoglu said.

On the flip side, governments with too much power can perpetrate the chaos directly. Such is the case with the state-led persecution of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.

“What’s remarkable about this is that it wasn’t caused by the collapse of the state but was actually perpetrated by the state,” he said.

Another example of a government’s unchecked power, Acemoglu said, is China’s use of mass-pooled data to maintain social order.

Acemoglu’s upcoming book discusses the notion of “Shackling the Leviathan.” The Leviathan, as he describes it, is a large-scale controlling state entity, either a governmental institution or a ruler. “Shackling” the Leviathan is the process by which the state’s non-elite public obtains control of the Leviathan’s operations by instituting checks and balances. Acemoglu cites the United States and United Kingdom as nations that have successfully tamed the Leviathan.

“Once you create an environment in a society where its citizens shackle the Leviathan, not only does this pave the way for the emergence of liberty, but it fundamentally changes the nature of politics,” he said.

Even in modern times, some societies have managed to exist largely in peace with either extreme or absent governing structures. The Tiv in Nigeria operate without any centralized government, Acemoglu noted.

For states that successfully shackle the Leviathan, Acemoglu says, the challenge becomes maintaining the status quo. The “Red Queen” refers to a line in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” in which the monarchic leader notes, “It takes all the running you can do to stay in the same place.” Maintaining such a balance between state and citizen control is often a work in progress, and a painful one at that.

“You have to keep on running,” he said.

Acemoglu is an economics professor at MIT focusing on political economy. His prior work includes research on the role of institutions in economic outcomes for various countries.

The Harvey S. Perloff Lecture Series is named for the founding dean of the UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, which has since evolved, in part, into the Luskin School. The event was sponsored by UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and Public Policy and by Global Public Affairs.

Urban Planning Professor Michael Storper introduced the speaker by noting similarities between Acemoglu’s lecture and Perloff’s own work in regional economics.

“There’s a kind of interesting continuity over time with the themes of this lecture,” Storper said. “Institutions are the foundations of economic and social work.”

Nearly 75 students and faculty members were in attendance at the evening lecture, which was followed by a reception.

9 New Faculty Hired by UCLA Luskin An extraordinary recruitment effort that included visits by 40 candidates will soon enlarge the size of the full-time faculty by almost 20 percent, adding new expertise and greater diversity

By Les Dunseith

Nine new faculty members will be joining the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on July 1 as part of a hiring binge that will soon enlarge the size of the full-time faculty by almost 20 percent and further diversify its demographic makeup.

The additions will help UCLA Luskin expand it course offerings, in part to support the new undergraduate major in public affairs set to launch in fall of 2018. A few positions will fill openings that had become vacant because of faculty retirements and other departures.

Dean Gary Segura said the new hires expand the Luskin School’s range of knowledge and evolve its faculty to better match the country’s rapidly changing demographics.

“These additions to the Luskin School faculty represent an outstanding growth and expansion of our expertise and social impact,” Segura said. “With these additions and those last year, we are among the most diverse and interdisciplinary units in the entire UC system and profoundly well-positioned to engage, educate, study, and contribute to California’s diverse and dynamic population.”

Six of the new hires are women and four are Latino. They include two new assistant professors in Social Welfare and three new assistant professors in Urban Planning, plus two assistant professors, one associate professor and one full professor who will join Public Policy.

The new faculty represent additional expertise for the School in international human and women’s rights; survey research; environmental planning, adaptation, and justice; criminal justice and bias in policing; immigration; gentrification; social and political inequality; poverty; and social identity among youth.

Among the additions are three political scientists, two economists, a developmental psychologist, a sociologist and a geographer. All of the positions have multidisciplinary aspects, crossing department lines not only within the Luskin School but also, in some cases, with academic units elsewhere on campus.

In all, 40 candidates were interviewed, coming from across the United States and around the world. The new faculty range from people just finishing graduate school to a full professor.

Here are the nine new faculty members:

  • The full professor is Martin Gilens, who previously taught political science at UCLA and has also worked at Yale and, most recently, Princeton. Gilens, who will join the Public Policy faculty, grew up in Los Angeles and has strong ties to the university.

 Read our previous story about Martin Gilens

 


  • Amada Armenta: She is returning to UCLA where she completed her PhD in sociology, and will join Urban Planning in the fall. Armenta comes to UCLA from the University of Pennsylvania where she is an Assistant Professor of Sociology. Her work looks at immigration enforcement and its impact on the lives and communities affected. She is particularly interested in the intervention of the criminal justice system in immigration enforcement. She has been published in Social Problems and the Annual Review of Sociology, in addition to her University of California Press book, “Protect, Serve, and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement.”

 


  • Natalie Bau: She is an international economist currently at the University of Toronto and will be joining Public Policy. Bau’s work examines several different aspects of the economics of education and educational policies and their downstream implications, including the effects on marriage patterns, teacher pay, student achievement and motivation, and others. She has projects in the works including “The Misallocation of Pay and Productivity in the Public Sector: Evidence from the Labor Market for Teachers” as well as “Labour Coercion and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Harrying of the North.”

 


  • Liz Koslov: She will assume a joint post in Urban Planning and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability as an assistant professor. Koslov is a scholar of environmental justice and specifically examines the urban socio-cultural impacts of climate change. She is currently a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at MIT, and holds a PhD in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University. She is in the process of completing her first book, “Retreat: Moving to Higher Ground in a Climate-Changed City,” under contract to the University of Chicago Press.

 


  • Amy Ritterbusch: She will be joining Social Welfare. Ritterbusch is a human and urban geographer and currently an associate professor of government at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. Her work is focused on urban social justice movements, marginalized youth, substance abuse, prostitution and other downstream effects of child poverty. She also brings extensive expertise in field work, ethnographic methods and Latin American populations across the hemisphere. She has written several journal articles, which have been featured in Child, Abuse & Neglect, Global Public Health, Annals of the American Association of Geographers and other peer-reviewed journals.

  • Carlos Santos: Currently an assistant professor in counseling psychology at ASU, Santos is coming to UCLA Luskin Social Welfare. His work is principally on gender and ethnic identities, stereotypes, and their impacts on social adjustment, educational performance and outcomes among adolescents in communities of color. He received his PhD from NYU and his work has been funded by NSF and NIH. In addition to his monograph “Studying Ethnic Identity” for the American Psychological Association, his work has been published in many outlets, including the Journal of Youth and Adolescence and the Journal of Counseling Psychology.

  • V. Kelly Turner: Turner is currently an assistant professor of geography at Kent State and her focus is human-environmental interaction and urban management.  She will join Luskin Urban Planning in the fall. Her focus has been on how institutional arrangements and good metrics for resource consumption can help us build toward a more sustainable ecosystem, and she has applied this work to water resources, sustainable urbanism, and green infrastructure. She is the author of more than a dozen journal articles in publications such as Applied Geography, Ecology and Society, Urban Geography, and others.

  • Emily Weisburst: She is finishing a PhD in economics at UT-Austin and will be joining Public Policy. Her work focuses on bias in policing, officer discretion in arrest behavior, police reform, and the effects of police presence in public schools. Weisburst previously served as a staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisors in the Executive Office of the President, and has done collaborative research for RAND and the State of Texas. Her work has been published in the Journal of Higher Education and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

  • Chris Zepeda-Millan: He joins Luskin Public Policy. Zepeda-Millan is a political scientist and current professor of ethnic studies at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on social movements, immigration and communities of color, and has been published in American Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, and Politics, Groups and Identities. His book, “Latino Mass Mobilization: Immigration, Racialization and Activism,” was recently published by Cambridge University Press. Zepeda-Millan will be jointly appointed in the Department of Chicana/o Studies and will be working with the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

 

Wildfires Don’t Have to be ‘Bad,’ Author Says During UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation talk and panel discussion, experts discuss how policy changes can reduce the risk of tragedy in fire-prone areas such as Southern California

By Aaron Julian

Last December, Los Angeles and the greater Southern California area faced many major fire events, including the Skirball and Thomas fires, that caused tens of millions of dollars of damage to hundreds of thousands of acres and hundreds of buildings. Severe fire incidents such as these leave an impression on some people that all wildfires can be nothing but catastrophic.

But the rich history of benefits, losses, debates, policy initiatives and research demonstrate that wildfires are so much more than what meets the eye.

Wildfire was the topic of discussion on April 19, 2018, at UCLA Luskin. Fronting this event was Edward Struzik, a fellow at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, and author of the book, “Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future.” Struzik detailed the history, science and approaches taken to control wildfires over the past couple of centuries. He also pressed for a hybrid approach to wildfires that moves us away from the longstanding policy of fire suppression toward fire management.

“Fire rejuvenates forests by removing disease-ridden plants and harmful insects from forest ecosystems, and yet fire continues to be demonized. … The big problem is that we have not been able to figure out how to live with fire,” Struzik said.

Wildfire incidents have become increasingly powerful and widespread, he said, and in turn have become increasingly difficult to contain. This amplifying issue can be attributed to factors such as global climate change, invasive trees and shrubs, arctic sea ice changes, and, especially, human behavior. As the human population increases, communities grow and spread. As more people spend more time in forests, fire risks increase dramatically.

“Human-started wildfires have accounted for 84 percent of total wildfires, and tripled the length of the fire season,” Struzik asserted. “The problem we can say is not fire, but people.”

He added that preparation is crucial in communities that are at risk of wildfire, so that people understand that we are unable to stop all fires. He argued for improved early warning processes and clearer evacuation protocols. Struzik also proposed doing more controlled burns and allowing remote wildfires to run their course to safely deplete the fuel for these fires and enhance forest ecosystems.

The future is projected to become increasingly dangerous if fire suppression remains dominant. As arctic sea ice continues to diminish, Santa Ana winds will become dryer. Struzik says that our best option is to adapt and embrace “good fire”; otherwise, the “bad and the ugly fires” will prevail.

Following the lecture, a panel of experts expanded on the subject matter.

Doug Bevington, director of the Environment Now Forest Program at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and moderator of the panel, said, “The central challenge we face is to find policies that simultaneously take climate change seriously and take the natural role of large wildfires seriously … while enabling Californians to safely coexist with wildfire as an inevitable part of life in our state.”

Chief Ralph Terrazas of the Los Angeles Fire Department detailed the hard work and strain that California fire departments have experienced in recent years, including last December when multiple fires raged at once. Terrazas emphasized the importance of larger policy reforms to reduce fire incidents and stretch fire combat resources when homes and lives are endangered.

“It is about changing the way we think when we live in these environments,” said Beth Burnham, a founder and current member of the North Topanga Safe Fire Council. Burnham argued that when people live in fire-risk areas like many parts of Southern California, they must make fire readiness and preparation a priority.

Alex Hall, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and director of the Center for Climate Science at UCLA, drew on his work in climate science in adding his perspective. “In California, there is this tremendous sensitivity of fire to climate and weather. Because climate and weather are changing, that means fire is also changing,” he said.

When the conversation was opened to the crowd, topics included technical inquiries from workers in water management as well as personal anecdotes about safety in communities that have previously been impacted by fire incidents. The panel reiterated the need to be prepared and have a plan for fire incidents, but attendees were also urged to work at the community level to promote change on a wider scale.

The event was organized by the Luskin Center for Innovation as part of the UCLA Luskin Innovator Series.

Click or swipe to view a gallery of photos from the event:

How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future

Resistance Through Research in the Trump Era Luskin School Ph.D. students host conference on challenging inequality through research in the 'new reality'

By Stan Paul

For urban planning, social welfare and education doctoral students at UCLA, the results of the 2016 election added a new urgency to their role as researchers and to their research agendas.

In response to the rhetoric and policies of the Trump administration following the inauguration, a working group was formed to discuss questions of concern for upcoming scholars in UCLA’s academic and professional programs who are — and will be — working directly with individuals and groups in diverse communities.

This year, the group’s efforts culminated in “Resistance through Research: Social Justice Research and Activism in the Trump Era,” a conference held April 20, 2018, at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“As Ph.D. students in the professional schools, we conduct research on issues of race, gender and class-based discrimination, and we critically examine the opportunities that people have to participate in the institutions that shape their lives,” said Rebecca Crane, an Urban Planning doctoral student and one of the event organizers. “We decided to start a working group to discuss these issues which we hope will create dialogue around the notion of a politically engaged research agenda and its potential to challenge inequality now in this political moment.”

Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, provided opening remarks.

“Urgency for resistance is not new, but rather persistent,” said Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography. “The phenomenon of Trumpism is not unique to the United States.” Rather, it is something that must be treated “as a rupture in the fabric of the world.”

But, she added: “The question is whether we, scholars rooted in academia, have stepped up … whether the global university, a command and control node of knowledge production, can be committed to such forms of research.”

And, Roy pointed out, academic fields and institutions that produce knowledge are not exempt from examination or resistance.

“For me, resistance within, against and from the university has meant a politics of alliance, solidarity and collectivism. It has meant taking and exercising academic freedom through a very visible politics of building collectivity, of building a commons.”

However, she cautioned the room full of students and researchers, “There’s a hell of a lot of risk ahead of you.”

The conference also included a panel focused on research methods illustrating theoretical and political points of departure and avenues in academic research. Panelists represented different career stages from new Ph.D.s to veteran scholars and educators.

Daniel Solórzano, a longtime professor of Education and Chicano/a Studies at UCLA, recalled early in his academic career his decision to go against the grain — and against the advice of senior scholars — to “challenge the dominant frames.” Solórzano whose teaching and research interests include critical race theory, agreed that “the issues are something that are not new,” crediting his students with helping him advance important work and fields of inquiry. “I need a diverse student population to move this work forward.”

Also on the methods panel was Nina Flores, who completed her doctorate in urban planning at UCLA Luskin in 2016. Flores, now an assistant professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at California State University Long Beach, also discussed the challenge and benefits of “push-back.”

“Find your people,” she said, citing her work and collaboration with longtime UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty members Leo Estrada and the late Jacqueline Leavitt. By finding the right people to work with, Flores said, “the push-back can be creative,” as well as affirming.

Also making up the methods panel were Kristina Lovato-Hermann  SW Ph.D. ’17, now assistant professor of social work at Cal State University Long Beach, and Karen Umemoto, professor of Urban Planning and Asian American Studies. Umemoto also serves as the inaugural holder of the Helen and Morgan Chu Endowed Director’s Chair in the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.

A second panel, devoted to research justice, included Saba Waheed, research director at the UCLA Labor Center; Yvonne Yen Liu, research director of the Solidarity Research Center in Los Angeles; and Lolita Andrada Lledo, associate director of the Los Angeles-based Pilipino Workers Center.

“We wanted today to be an opportunity to connect with people outside our departments who might be working on similar topics … as well as community-based researchers working on these topics,” Crane said.

In fact, a class of UCLA undergrads was able to take advantage of the knowledge shared at the conference. Diya Bose, a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, brought students from her UCLA freshman cluster course on Interracial Dynamics in American Culture and Society.

“It was important for them to witness how the UCLA students are continuing to fight for justice and liberation through education, research and working with communities of color,” said Bose. “Following the Luskin event, my students shared with me that they felt inspired and empowered to participate in the UCLA community, not as passive consumers of knowledge, but as producers of knowledge.”

The conference also featured research workshops in three subgroups: Racial and Gender Justice, Public Services and Spaces, and Migration and Displacement.

“In my internship we do a lot of research and we partner with a lot of community organizations,” said Evelyn Larios, a second-year MSW student at UCLA. “So this is really nice because it really reinforces the idea that as we move forward in collective research we need to partner with communities to build that relationship.”

Larios added: “At some point it take compromise. That’s important to society and democracy in general.”

Click or swipe below to view more photos from this event on Flickr:

Resistance Through Research

Major News: UCLA Luskin Launches Undergraduate Degree The B.A. in Public Affairs combines rigorous methodology with community engagement, connecting the dots between theory and action

By Mary Braswell

The Luskin School’s world-class resources in public policy, social welfare and urban planning will soon be available to a much wider circle of UCLA students.

Beginning in the fall of 2018, the School will offer a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs, a major that is unique in the University of California system. A clear public service ethos lies at the heart of the program, which combines critical thinking, social science methodology and deep engagement in the community.

The major will connect the dots between theory and action, said Meredith Phillips, newly named chair of the undergraduate program. Phillips is an associate professor of public policy and sociology who has taught at UCLA for two decades.

“Every class will be focused on societal problems, issues that students care about, and how we can develop reasonable solutions,” Phillips said. “In our classes, we’ll discuss competing values, empirical data and evidence, and different conceptual frameworks for understanding the world. Our students will be developing skills in the service of solving problems, which is really what distinguishes this major from others.”

The impetus for the new program is simple, said UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura: “It’s part of our mission.

“This is a land-grant university that was created to serve the public, to serve California,” Segura said. The program, he said, will attract students “who wanted to come to a prestige institution and take that degree back to the communities they came from and create change there.”

We hope to play a great role in the community service learning opportunities for undergraduates because we already have a lot of experience … with  community-based organizations.”

— Laura Abrams,

Social Welfare chair

 

The B.A. in Public Affairs will provide a wide-ranging education, Phillips said. Students will delve into power politics, microeconomics and human development. They will look at competing social science theories with a critical eye, and master tools for collecting and analyzing data. And they will learn to make written and oral arguments with clarity and conviction.

Unique to the program, she said, is a yearlong capstone project that will immerse seniors in a field and research setting where they can apply their scholarship in the real world.

“The students will be embedded in these organizations, learning from staff and clients about what’s going well, what’s not, and thinking about how to do things even better,” said Phillips, who has co-founded two educational nonprofits.

“They will apply the skills they’ve learned in our classes to those experiences. And what they’re learning on the ground will undoubtedly turn out to be quite informative and will change how they think about what they’re learning in the classroom,” she said.

The emphasis on service learning is what drew UCLA freshman Leyla Solis to explore the Public Affairs B.A.

“All throughout high school, I did a lot of field work in areas I was passionate about,” said Solis, who attended a Northeast Los Angeles charter school that encouraged political engagement. Before coming to UCLA, Solis advocated at the United Nations for the rights of indigenous people, and developed a keen interest in effective governance and environmental law.

A political science major, Solis had been considering the Luskin School’s minor offerings and even looking ahead to a graduate degree. Now she is mulling whether to go for a double major.

“What the people in the Public Affairs Department are doing is not just studying it but going out and experiencing it firsthand,” said Solis, who mentors students from her charter school and tutors low-income children at Santa Monica’s Virginia Avenue Park.

“This is a real opportunity for us to give back to the undergraduate community, to include them in our mission as a school to improve the performance of government and nonprofits.”

— J.R. DeShazo,

Public Policy chair

 

No other campus in the UC system offers a public affairs bachelor’s degree that draws from the three fields UCLA Luskin is known for: public policy, social welfare and urban planning. Faculty from each department were instrumental in developing the major, making it a true multidisciplinary partnership, Phillips said.

Creation of the major had been in the works for several years, in response to rising student demand. The Luskin School’s current undergraduate courses draw around 1,500 students a year, and its minor programs are among the most popular at UCLA, said the School’s undergraduate advisor, Stan Paul.

Last year, UCLA Luskin faculty voted unanimously to proceed with the undergraduate major. Jocelyn Guihama MPP ’03, deputy director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy, helped turn this aspiration into reality, shepherding the effort through every stage. UCLA’s Academic Senate gave final approval on April 19, 2018, and the first of an expected 600 students will enter the major this fall, though many more are expected to take courses offered as part of the major.

Students interested in learning more about the major can visit the UCLA Luskin site or email the department at undergraduateinfo@luskin.ucla.edu.

The creation of an undergraduate major at a UCLA professional school is a rare occurrence, Segura said. “It represents a substantial addition to the undergraduate offerings at UCLA, and we think it’s going to be broadly attractive to a whole swath of incoming young people,” he said.

The B.A. in Public Affairs is just one sign of “a new infusion of energy” under Segura, said Meyer Luskin, who, along with his wife, Renee, is the School’s major benefactor and namesake. “I think he’s going to do a lot of outstanding projects for the community and the School, and I’m very enthused about our future.”

“I expect so much energy and commitment coming from our students in the undergrad major. That is going to have tremendous ripple effects in what we teach in our graduate programs.”

— Vinit Mukhija,

Urban Planning chair

 

The new major comes at a time when a growing number of students are seeking the scholarship and training to effect social change.

“These young people are not simply resisting political and social forces with which they disagree — they’re also resisting knowledge-free policymaking,” Segura said of the spreading youth movement on such issues as gun violence, Black Lives Matter and immigration reform.

“They want to be informed by facts. What we do at Luskin is provide them with the infrastructure to think analytically, with enough training so that they can solve the problems they’ve identified as important to their generation,” he said.

Creation of the major greatly expands undergraduate access to UCLA Luskin’s faculty and resources, and it will also benefit the entire School, Segura said.

“There will certainly be an infusion of energy that only undergraduates can bring. All of a sudden we’re going to have 600 change agents running around the building who are youthful and energized,” Segura said.

In addition, the hiring of new faculty members to support the expansion of class offerings has also opened up avenues for graduate research, he said, and master’s and Ph.D. students in UCLA Luskin’s other degree programs will gain access to teaching assistantships and other leadership roles.

“I think from a scholarly perspective, from a resources perspective, from an experience perspective, it’s a big, big win for the School,” Segura said.